FRENCH CONNECTION: Adeniyi Amadou’s connections made him the best international recruiter in the country

first_imgDuring a meeting in 2016, Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillsman sat down with Adeniyi Amadou to talk about the team’s future. Hillsman had just brought Amadou back to Syracuse to join his coaching staff and lead recruiting, and the two of them met to discuss Hillsman’s perpetual goal — winning a national championship.“What’s your vision?” Amadou asked Hillsman. “How can we do this?”They wanted players who would mesh and get along well, regardless of background or style of play. On the court, Hillsman looked for players with length who could play multiple positions and help the Orange play seemingly “positionless” basketball.The head coach established his vision. Amadou formulated the plan. Most of his best recruits in the past, when he coached at Dayton and Kentucky, had been from the United States. Hillsman aimed elsewhere.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“For some reason, he was like, ‘Hey, let’s do this internationally,’” Amadou said. “He explained to me the vision. ‘This is where I’m trying to get to, now it’s on you to try to figure out how to get it done.’”During Amadou’s first season as assistant coach, Syracuse made the national championship game before falling to No. 1 Connecticut. Last season, the Orange were bounced from the NCAA tournament in the first round. Now, the players that Amadou’s recruited since joining the staff are finally at Syracuse and ready to make an impact. Australian Tiana Mangakahia is coming off a record-breaking, All-ACC season and leads a group of six international recruits brought in by Amadou, a native of Paris, France.Talia Trackim | Senior Design Editor Comments Published on November 2, 2018 at 11:22 am Contact Eric: [email protected] | @esblack34,Whether or not SU finally accomplishes its head coach’s goal this season may depend on the production of the players his recruiting guru has brought in.Amadou’s career in basketball began when he was 15, in France. A year later, he’d left his parents’ home to play professionally. At 18, he was in the U.S. playing collegiately at Army, under Bob Knight-disciple Jim Cruz. He spent just a year there, ultimately finishing his college career at Indiana University of Pennsylvania before parlaying a successful senior year into a professional contract in France.But playing professionally wasn’t for him, and he decided to apply to colleges for his master’s degree. Amadou was accepted into a one-year communications program at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, and figured, “Why not?”“It was my first time that I was just a student, not being an athlete,” Amadou said. “So I loved that part. Being in graduate classes, we had fantastic debates about world affairs, what’s going on in the world, I was learning how to be a journalist.”The political climate of the country and the world at the time made for good talking points, he said, and he loved discussing them with his professors and classmates.Soon, he gravitated back toward basketball and landed a spot as a graduate assistant for the SU women’s team. There he met Dan Olson, director of espnW HoopGurlz, ESPN’s women’s basketball recruiting service. During Hillsman’s summer camps at the Carrier Dome, the two built a relationship and talked about everything basketball-related they could.“As I sat in the Dome and evaluated kids, he would sit by me,” Olson said. “We’d communicate, talk trash, we’d test each other’s knowledge on basketball players, where they went, all that sort of thing. He was pretty good.”Amadou talked to Olson about the connections Amadou had internationally, specifically in France. His background and reputation caught the eye of then-Dayton head coach Jim Jabir, who had mutual friends with Amadou and called him. The two began talking, but instead of discussing basketball, they talked about politics, world affairs and all of the things Amadou enjoyed debating at Newhouse.One day, Jabir took a chance and turned the conversation back to basketball. He had a position open on his coaching staff, and he wanted Amadou to fill it. The grad student was hesitant at first, but Jabir persisted, offering to fly Amadou to Dayton to show him around.“I came for the weekend and everything was great,” Amadou said. “And then it was like, ‘Listen, this is the job, it’s not a lot of money, it’s $30,000.’ I heard $30,000 and I’m like, ‘This is it. I’m taking this job.’”At first, his job consisted of minimal responsibilities recruiting-wise. Eventually, looking to create connections and learn the basics of recruiting, Amadou began to call coaches across the country. One of those calls was to James Banks, the head coach and director of the Nike Lady Gym Rats, an AAU team in Indianapolis.Amadou asked Banks to teach him what mistakes bad assistant coaches around the country make and what qualities good assistants have.“You have to understand a few things,” Amadou remembered Banks said. “You have to understand the core values of that family … you shouldn’t sell the school necessarily right away … you should sell them on the values that your staff have. In the end, (the parents) should see in you someone that they’d want to entrust her child with.”Banks told him to put relationships first, and as Amadou earned more recruiting duties, he did. The first two players Dayton signed that were recruited by him, Celeste Edwards and Jodie Cornelie-Sigmundova, were recruited by bigger schools. Edwards played on the Gym Rats, coached by Amadou’s recruiting “mentor,” Banks. Cornelie-Sigmundova, a product of France, came to Dayton thanks in part to her native ties with Amadou. They were “bigger than our conference,” Amadou said, but came to the Flyers because of their connection with him.After four years at Dayton and two at Kentucky, Amadou returned to Syracuse where Hillsman laid out his plan. Amadou began recruiting with a focus internationally immediately — two of his first recruits were Mangakahia, an Australian point guard who was playing junior college basketball in the United States, and Digna Strautmane, a Latvian forward.Mangakahia is coming off her first season with the Orange, a season in which she averaged a double-double, led the country in assists and made the All-ACC first team. Strautmane, meanwhile, just finished her freshman season and was named to the All-ACC freshman team.“The overseas recruiting process is Adeniyi Amadou, period,” Hillsman said. “He’s the premier international recruiter in the country, by far, it’s not close. Every top player that’s in Europe, we have a chance to recruit them and we have a chance to get, and that’s very important for us … Adeniyi has single-handedly raised our level in international recruiting.”This year, SU’s roster is littered with more international recruits, but with a concentration of French players. Two redshirt freshmen, Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi and Marie-Paule Foppossi, came to Syracuse last year, while Kadiatou Sissoko arrived this season.He first heard about Foppossi from Cornelie-Sigmundova, his first international recruit ever. The two of them were playing on the same team in France, and Cornelie-Sigmundova told Amadou that her teammate knew nothing about the college recruiting process or the U.S. At first, Amadou didn’t talk about Syracuse, only the process of coming to America. Before long, he offered Foppossi a scholarship, and she committed.Djaldi-Tabdi’s recruitment was more personal. Amadou recruited her sister, Mousdandy, when he was at Dayton. Mousdandy decided to stay in France and play professionally, but Amadou built a relationship with the family. When Djaldi-Tabdi popped up on SU’s radar, it was a much easier sell.“We had such a good rapport with the mother and the sister,” Amadou said, “the second time around, the mother was like ‘Listen, you can have this one.’”After sitting out her redshirt season, Djaldi-Tabdi will likely see minutes in the post this year for the Orange and is a breakout candidate off the bench, Olson said. The third native of France is Sissoko, the true freshman and the top French recruit that Amadou’s landed.The 11th-ranked recruit in the 2018 class, Sissoko was also introduced to Amadou through Cornelie-Sigmundova. The two played against each other in a game and afterward, Cornelie-Sigmundova asked her former coach if he knew about Sissoko.“You know this kid? She’s pretty good, right,” Amadou remembered Cornelie-Sigmundova said. “(Sissoko) wants to go to America, but she has no clue, can you help her?”Amadou responded, “Yeah, I can help her,” then he paused, “come here.”While recruiting is important, Amadou said, the period after players come to Syracuse is even more significant. He’s involved more with the players then because he’s the go-to guy when they don’t understand a phrase in English or a concept in practice.The language barrier was the hardest part of the transition for Foppossi, who said her teammates and Amadou were vital in integrating her into the team.“Coach Amadou was one of the big factors when I came here,” Foppossi said. “He knows how difficult it is to move far away from your family, so it was really a good factor for me to come here.”Amadou recommends that recruits read English magazines and watch English television shows or movies before they get to Syracuse to ease the difficulties with transitioning. “Game of Thrones,” “Power” and “Empire” were three of the shows that helped Foppossi learn the language best. For Amadou, it was “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and “Friends.”This past September, during the Contact Period of NCAA Women’s Basketball recruiting, Amadou traveled to Central Europe, Scandinavia, Spain and France. Thanks to the connections he’s made in his career, his work is getting easier.Word is spreading about Syracuse’s growing recruiting pipeline to different countries around the world. His current recruits, past recruits, missed recruits, and contacts domestically and abroad are doing the job for him to an extent by talking about the school, he said. This model, which he noted was refined by Gonzaga on the men’s side, is what he hopes to continue to perfect moving forward.“It’s an organic pipeline so to speak, because eventually what we’re hoping is for the kids to recruit themselves,” Amadou said. “They will say, from the human standpoint and the basketball standpoint and the academic standpoint, this is the place.”Cover photo by Josh Shub-Selzter | Staff Photographer,Cancel replyYou must be logged in to post a comment.center_img Whether or not SU finally accomplishes its head coach’s goal this season may depend on the production of the players his recruiting guru has brought in.Amadou’s career in basketball began when he was 15, in France. A year later, he’d left his parents’ home to play professionally. At 18, he was in the U.S. playing collegiately at Army, under Bob Knight-disciple Jim Cruz. He spent just a year there, ultimately finishing his college career at Indiana University of Pennsylvania before parlaying a successful senior year into a professional contract in France.But playing professionally wasn’t for him, and he decided to apply to colleges for his master’s degree. Amadou was accepted into a one-year communications program at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, and figured, “Why not?”“It was my first time that I was just a student, not being an athlete,” Amadou said. “So I loved that part. Being in graduate classes, we had fantastic debates about world affairs, what’s going on in the world, I was learning how to be a journalist.”The political climate of the country and the world at the time made for good talking points, he said, and he loved discussing them with his professors and classmates.Soon, he gravitated back toward basketball and landed a spot as a graduate assistant for the SU women’s team. There he met Dan Olson, director of espnW HoopGurlz, ESPN’s women’s basketball recruiting service. During Hillsman’s summer camps at the Carrier Dome, the two built a relationship and talked about everything basketball-related they could.“As I sat in the Dome and evaluated kids, he would sit by me,” Olson said. “We’d communicate, talk trash, we’d test each other’s knowledge on basketball players, where they went, all that sort of thing. He was pretty good.”Amadou talked to Olson about the connections Amadou had internationally, specifically in France. His background and reputation caught the eye of then-Dayton head coach Jim Jabir, who had mutual friends with Amadou and called him. The two began talking, but instead of discussing basketball, they talked about politics, world affairs and all of the things Amadou enjoyed debating at Newhouse.One day, Jabir took a chance and turned the conversation back to basketball. He had a position open on his coaching staff, and he wanted Amadou to fill it. The grad student was hesitant at first, but Jabir persisted, offering to fly Amadou to Dayton to show him around.“I came for the weekend and everything was great,” Amadou said. “And then it was like, ‘Listen, this is the job, it’s not a lot of money, it’s $30,000.’ I heard $30,000 and I’m like, ‘This is it. I’m taking this job.’”At first, his job consisted of minimal responsibilities recruiting-wise. Eventually, looking to create connections and learn the basics of recruiting, Amadou began to call coaches across the country. One of those calls was to James Banks, the head coach and director of the Nike Lady Gym Rats, an AAU team in Indianapolis.Amadou asked Banks to teach him what mistakes bad assistant coaches around the country make and what qualities good assistants have.“You have to understand a few things,” Amadou remembered Banks said. “You have to understand the core values of that family … you shouldn’t sell the school necessarily right away … you should sell them on the values that your staff have. In the end, (the parents) should see in you someone that they’d want to entrust her child with.”Banks told him to put relationships first, and as Amadou earned more recruiting duties, he did. The first two players Dayton signed that were recruited by him, Celeste Edwards and Jodie Cornelie-Sigmundova, were recruited by bigger schools. Edwards played on the Gym Rats, coached by Amadou’s recruiting “mentor,” Banks. Cornelie-Sigmundova, a product of France, came to Dayton thanks in part to her native ties with Amadou. They were “bigger than our conference,” Amadou said, but came to the Flyers because of their connection with him.After four years at Dayton and two at Kentucky, Amadou returned to Syracuse where Hillsman laid out his plan. Amadou began recruiting with a focus internationally immediately — two of his first recruits were Mangakahia, an Australian point guard who was playing junior college basketball in the United States, and Digna Strautmane, a Latvian forward.Mangakahia is coming off her first season with the Orange, a season in which she averaged a double-double, led the country in assists and made the All-ACC first team. Strautmane, meanwhile, just finished her freshman season and was named to the All-ACC freshman team.“The overseas recruiting process is Adeniyi Amadou, period,” Hillsman said. “He’s the premier international recruiter in the country, by far, it’s not close. Every top player that’s in Europe, we have a chance to recruit them and we have a chance to get, and that’s very important for us … Adeniyi has single-handedly raised our level in international recruiting.”This year, SU’s roster is littered with more international recruits, but with a concentration of French players. Two redshirt freshmen, Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi and Marie-Paule Foppossi, came to Syracuse last year, while Kadiatou Sissoko arrived this season.He first heard about Foppossi from Cornelie-Sigmundova, his first international recruit ever. The two of them were playing on the same team in France, and Cornelie-Sigmundova told Amadou that her teammate knew nothing about the college recruiting process or the U.S. At first, Amadou didn’t talk about Syracuse, only the process of coming to America. Before long, he offered Foppossi a scholarship, and she committed.Djaldi-Tabdi’s recruitment was more personal. Amadou recruited her sister, Mousdandy, when he was at Dayton. Mousdandy decided to stay in France and play professionally, but Amadou built a relationship with the family. When Djaldi-Tabdi popped up on SU’s radar, it was a much easier sell.“We had such a good rapport with the mother and the sister,” Amadou said, “the second time around, the mother was like ‘Listen, you can have this one.’”After sitting out her redshirt season, Djaldi-Tabdi will likely see minutes in the post this year for the Orange and is a breakout candidate off the bench, Olson said. The third native of France is Sissoko, the true freshman and the top French recruit that Amadou’s landed.The 11th-ranked recruit in the 2018 class, Sissoko was also introduced to Amadou through Cornelie-Sigmundova. The two played against each other in a game and afterward, Cornelie-Sigmundova asked her former coach if he knew about Sissoko.“You know this kid? She’s pretty good, right,” Amadou remembered Cornelie-Sigmundova said. “(Sissoko) wants to go to America, but she has no clue, can you help her?”Amadou responded, “Yeah, I can help her,” then he paused, “come here.”While recruiting is important, Amadou said, the period after players come to Syracuse is even more significant. He’s involved more with the players then because he’s the go-to guy when they don’t understand a phrase in English or a concept in practice.The language barrier was the hardest part of the transition for Foppossi, who said her teammates and Amadou were vital in integrating her into the team.“Coach Amadou was one of the big factors when I came here,” Foppossi said. “He knows how difficult it is to move far away from your family, so it was really a good factor for me to come here.”Amadou recommends that recruits read English magazines and watch English television shows or movies before they get to Syracuse to ease the difficulties with transitioning. “Game of Thrones,” “Power” and “Empire” were three of the shows that helped Foppossi learn the language best. For Amadou, it was “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and “Friends.”This past September, during the Contact Period of NCAA Women’s Basketball recruiting, Amadou traveled to Central Europe, Scandinavia, Spain and France. Thanks to the connections he’s made in his career, his work is getting easier.Word is spreading about Syracuse’s growing recruiting pipeline to different countries around the world. His current recruits, past recruits, missed recruits, and contacts domestically and abroad are doing the job for him to an extent by talking about the school, he said. This model, which he noted was refined by Gonzaga on the men’s side, is what he hopes to continue to perfect moving forward.“It’s an organic pipeline so to speak, because eventually what we’re hoping is for the kids to recruit themselves,” Amadou said. “They will say, from the human standpoint and the basketball standpoint and the academic standpoint, this is the place.”Cover photo by Josh Shub-Selzter | Staff Photographerlast_img

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